The KGB was the security agency
of the Soviet Union government which was involved in nearly all
aspects of life in the Soviet Union since March 1954. Yet its
roots stretch back to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 when the
newly-formed Communist government organized Cheka, a Russian
acronym for "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for
Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage." After many
alterations, the Soviet Union arranged its security agency as the
Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti (Committee of State
Security), more simply known as the KGB.
Headquarted at dom dva
(House Number Two) on Dzerzhinsky Street in Moscow, the KGB had
numerous tasks and goals, from suppressing religion to
infiltrating the highest levels of government in the United
States. They had five main directorates into which their
operations were divided:
- Intelligence in other
- Counterintelligence and the
- The KGB military corps and
the Border Guards
- Suppression of internal
- Electronic espionage
These are only the main
directorates. Overall, the KGB had eleven primary tasks to
fulfill, as follows:
- Assistance in governing
the Soviet Union - The KGB had considerable power in
government affairs, particularly foreign affairs.
- Suppression of internal
resistance - The KGB was responsible for silencing or
- Protecting leaders -
National leaders were physically protected and the
information about them was screened by the KGB.
- Ensuring economic
efficiency - The KGB disciplined workers and quelled
- Criminal investigations -
The KGB investigated many crimes, especially those by
foreigners and those which were against the government.
- Enforcing morals -
Dealing with those who had deviated from Soviet ideology
was another KGB task.
- Punishment - The KGB
oversaw the punishment of political criminals.
- Informing leaders -
Soviet leaders were kept up to date about all types of
information because of KGB reports.
- Diminishing foreign
threat - The KGB sought to decrease opposition from
abroad and foreign influence within the Soviet Union.
Foreigners in the Soviet Union, including diplomats and
tourists, were individually monitored by a KGB agent who
employed a number of techniques to spy. These foreigners
were often the target of recruitment for espionage, made
possible by the agency's adept abilities of persuasion.
Threats, bribery, and seduction could all be used.
- Secret operations -
Exceptionally secret work was handled by the KGB,
including the building of an underground complex beneath
Moscow for their own protection, which necessitated the
establishment of the Directorate of Tunnel Diggers.
- Propaganda - The KGB
had strict control over what information was made public.
When Mikhail Gorbachev came to
power in the Soviet Union and he began to make reforms, KGB
offices were opened to the media and interviews of KGB officials
were allowed. The activities of the secret police and the
suppression of dissidents were decreased while industrial
After the fall of the Soviet
Union, the KGB was incorporated into the Russian government and
the domestic operations of the agency were spun off into a
separate agency. The KGB continued to handle foreign
intelligence, and was later renamed the Russian Foreign